Last week, Mexico hosted its annual travel trade megashow, Tianguis Turistico, in Guadalajara. Among those in attendance was Rodrigo Esponda, the Mexico Tourism Board’s regional director for North America, who took some time to speak with me one-on-one about what he sees on the horizon for Mexico tourism.

Rising destinations: Mexico’s cities and beach resorts are constantly expanding and changing, reinventing themselves to stay relevant for new and repeat guests. But in terms of new destinations, Esponda shed some light on the ones to watch. “Merida has been remarkable in the last few years,” says Esponda. “You walk the streets of Merida and are constantly seeing new galleries, restaurants, and boutique hotels. The cuisine is very special because it is close to Cancun. The standard of living is very high, as well, and the cost of living is low.”

He pointed out that the destination is also much easier to get to these days.

“It has new additional connectivity nonstop from the U.S., and that’s due to a combination of things. The connectivity is increasing because of a rising demand,” Esponda said.

When it comes to beach destinations, there are two Esponda has his eye on.

“The first is Costalegre, south of Puerto Vallarta. This is a fantastic place to go. It is about an hour south of the Puerto Vallarta airport, but it’s the scenery of beaches and the few little hotels that real deserve attention,” he said. “Huatulco is another beach destination to watch. It has around 3,000 rooms, and there are interesting projects in place to expand it. The bays of Huatulco are perfectly preserved.”

Air travel: Last week, the Mexico Senate approved the aviation agreement that Mexico and U.S. agreed to in December. Under the deal there will be no limits on the number of carriers that can serve any U.S.-Mexico city pair.

“This means there will be much more flexibility to fly in and out of Mexico,” says Esponda. “Traditionally in airports like LAX and JFK, only two Mexican carriers and two American carriers could fly the same route. Now with this agreement that opens. There are no restraints. This is a big opportunity. The connectivity between Mexico and the U.S. has been growing and all airlines have been opening new opportunities. JetBlue and Southwest continue to expand, and the original carriers like American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United are all continuously incorporating new flights into Mexico. Vice versa, Mexican carriers are flying into the U.S., like Interjet, Aeromexico, Viva Aerobus and Volaris. This agreement will only continue the trend that has been growing.”

Safety in Acapulco: As this year’s Tianguis closed, it was announced that Tianguis Turistico 2017 would return to Acapulco, the original home of the event. But with a new travel warning in effect that once again calls out Guerrero, state where Acapulco is located, U.S. travelers continue to worry about the security of the destination.

The Mexico Tourism Board was quick to point out that none of the recent violence in the city has involved tourists.

“Acapulco is a town that is in transition,” said Esponda. “There are definitely challenges, just as there are in every country. There is a very serious effort to improve the product experience and the way visitors are seeing Mexico. In the case of Acapulco, when you’re trying to improve things it’s not an easy way up. It has to be a complex process. Acapulco is a large town that has a very big tourism industry that is about more than hotels; there are villas, condos and golf courses. It is one of the biggest tourism spots for Mexicans who live in Mexico City. Every weekend there are thousands of Mexicans that travel to Acapulco for vacation, even though it has its challenges. It is improving, and it has been doing a big effort to combat and improve the situation.”

Many of these safety and security efforts have been in place for years, like the training programs for state police officers. But the destination has also created the Tourist Information and Assistance Center, Capta, to provide resources and assistance exclusively to tourists.

Zika: The Mexico Tourism Board has responded quickly when it comes to informing the traveling public about Zika, even producing a map that pinpoints where cases of the disease have been reported. The board wants visitors to know that the country’s most popular resort areas have not been affected.

“Zika is not particular to any destination. Where it has existed in Mexico has been very localized, and there have been very few cases,” said Esponda. “Throughout the years Mexico has had effective campaigns to eradicate other mosquito-borne diseases. The campaign has been done in the tropical areas, mostly the south and the rural areas, and these campaigns have been very effective.

“The places where Zika has taken place have been specific and rural with difficult access. It has not been an element that is present in the resorts.”

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